Live Q&A With Werner Herzog: Ask Your Questions

Werner Herzog

MasterClass is excited to announce that Werner Herzog is holding an online Live Q&A for his MasterClass students on Thursday, September 8th, beginning at 11:15am (PT).

Werner will be answering select student questions and sharing lessons he’s learned while making over 70 uncompromising films. You can submit your questions during the live event or in advance. Werner will try to answer as many questions as possible.

The event will take place online in Werner’s MasterClass and will be available for students to watch after the event.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

“Ultimately, my own goal is to be a good soldier of cinema…if I can inspire one or two of you out there to become a good soldier, then I have done everything I should do here.” – Werner Herzog

James Patterson’s Co-Author Competition Winner

Today, we are thrilled to announce the winner of the James Patterson Co-Author Competition! After receiving the three finalists’ outlines for their book ideas, James chose Kecia Bal from Somerset, PA, as the grand prize winner based on her story idea and outline. Kecia will have an opportunity to co-author a book with James Patterson.

Thanks to all MasterClass students who participated in the competition and congratulations, Kecia! We look forward to seeing your book come to life.

Kecia 2

 

James Patterson’s Co-Author Finalists

Thank you to everyone who submitted their writing to the James Patterson Co-Author Competition! Today, we are excited to announce the 3 finalists who will be one step closer to becoming James Patterson’s co-author. The following finalists will receive a $2,500 cash prize and will submit outlines for their book ideas. We’d like to congratulate the following 3 finalists:

  • Kecia Bal
  • Theresa Schultz
  • Jacob Turner

Once these finalists submit their book outlines on May 9, 2016, James will review them and select one grand prize winner to be his co-author. Tune in over the coming weeks to meet James Patterson’s co-author!

Meet Semifinalists Sarah Smothers & Jacob Turner

Thank you to everyone who participated in the James Patterson Co-Author Competition and congratulations to the semifinalists! Today, we’d like you to meet MasterClass students and semifinalists Sarah Smothers and Jacob Turner!

Sarah Smothers
LaGrange Park, Illinois

Sarah SmothersWhat drives you to write?
What drives me to write is my need for it. Writing is a way for me to understand the world and my place in it, simultaneously satisfying my need for creative expression.

How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since i was about 12. I remember I was in 6th grade and we had to write a 5-page story for class. I got so involved in mine that I filled up an entire spiral notebook. I decided to make it my career if I could right then.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
One of the most important things I’ve learned in James’ MasterClass is to keep going and push through with your writing. If you face rejection, especially from yourself, do not give up on your work.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in your story?
I plan on keeping my readers on the hook by bringing the characters to life and making them care about what happens to them, and of course having surprises all along the way.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
The person who has supported me most in my writing has got to be my friend Haley. Ironically we met in English class, and that was when I had started my series. She has read almost everything I’ve written and edited all 3 of my novels, currently working her way through the last one. She helps me by being my biggest fan.

Jacob Turner
Madison, Wisconsin

6. Jacob Turner-Headshot-James Patterson Co-Author ContestWhat drives you to write?
I love writing! I love spending time with characters and getting them into and (sometimes) out of hot water. Writing’s fun for me. Asking “what if” for jokes, twists, or touching moments keeps my mind in a constant state of possibility, and the practice of connecting seemingly unrelated ideas is a good reminder to pay attention to how everything does connect.

How long have you been writing?
The first novel I ever attempted lives in hopelessly smudged graphite between the pages of my 5th grade notebook.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
Outlines! I knew outlines were important, but before I took the class, they felt like the pragmatic opponent to free writing. But they’re not. Outlining is just writing out the story itself before deciding on the words best used for executing the story in prose. Understanding the importance of outlines makes me feel better about using them, and as a result, I write more efficiently.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in your story?
James says it best: hit your reader in the face with a pie, then while you have their attention, say something interesting. The 21st century presents so many new situations to explore in a story. By writing those stories in the context of the thriller genre, readers can expect an adventure that feels both familiar and fresh.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
My family’s been endlessly supportive and encouraging: My parents, who have worked so hard for me and my four older siblings and ask only that we make the most of our time here. My siblings, who are always there for practical help and personal guidance. My best friend, my non-biological brother, who gives the best feedback I could ask for. And my kitties, who are snuggly.

Meet Semifinalists Ellery Kane & Theresa Schultz

Thank you to everyone who participated in the James Patterson Co-Author Competition and congratulations to the semifinalists! Today, we’d like you to meet MasterClass students and semifinalists Ellery Kane and Theresa Schultz!

Ellery Kane
Oakland, California

ElleryWhat drives you to write?
My mother’s love for books inspired me to be curious about the countless stories unfolding around me, as every small town has its cast of characters. So began my fascination with people and the complex and singular lives they lead. I quickly learned most stories were not as easily deciphered as Nancy Drew. Some were tragic, others were filled with triumph. Remarkably, every story gave clues to the personality of its author. My curiosity about the behind-closed-doors lives of others is one of the reasons why I became a forensic psychologist, and now my “real” job drives my writing. As a psychologist, I meet many different types of people and ask them to tell me the deepest, darkest things about themselves. I’ve learned real life really is stranger than fiction, but through my writing, I hope to convey the idea that fiction can be just as extraordinary and riveting as real life.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
My favorite snippets of advice were to have a surprise—a twist or turn—in every chapter if you can, and to research, research, research, because it can inspire new ideas. I also love the idea that James does all his writing longhand on a legal pad—that is truly amazing!

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
Early on, my most ardent supporter was my mother. She was an English teacher and a writer herself, and she was the first person I ever shared my writing with. As a teenager, my first stories were a little morbid, but she never flinched. She always believed in my potential no matter what I set my mind to, and although she is no longer with me, her belief was instrumental in allowing me to unabashedly pursue all of my goals. Now, I’m fortunate to have a special someone who wears many hats: cheerleader, bad review censor, editor, plot developer, and sounding board.

Theresa Schultz
Irvine, California

TheresaSchultzWhat drives you to write?
I love creating complex characters, putting them in challenging situations, and seeing what happens. For me as a reader, I want to fall in love with the characters and miss them when the book ends. I would like to provide that same experience for readers of my books. Of course, I aim for great action, memorable dialogue, a terrific setting and all the rest, but if readers don’t care about those characters, they won’t keep reading, no matter how well a book is written.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
One piece of advice that is so simple, yet so brilliant, is James’ TBD message. I’ve gotten stuck before and spent far too much time trying to fix a scene, when it makes more sense to write ‘To Be Determined’ and keep going. I’m learning that as I write the next scenes, often I will come up with a way to fix the earlier scene, and I haven’t wasted precious writing time.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in your story?
Once I’ve got the reader rooting for my characters, I intend to throw several obstacles in their way and make their lives as difficult as possible. That makes the ending all the more satisfying. I want to include several twists and turns that (I hope) the reader won’t see coming. Pacing is key too, and I always try to end most chapters with a hook that forces the reader to turn the page and keep going.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
My husband has been my biggest supporter. We’ve done without some material things that a steady second income would have provided, but he’s always encouraged me. My kids have been great too. It’s not easy living with a writer. We’re juggling characters and plots in our heads all the time. My mom has been my biggest cheerleader, and the writers in my critique groups have been tremendously helpful. Writing is a lonely endeavor, so spending time with fellow writers who “get it” is invaluable. I feel truly blessed to have such a supportive community.

Meet Semifinalists Jeff Gunhus & Michael Hilliard

Thank you to everyone who participated in the James Patterson Co-Author Competition and congratulations to the semifinalists! Today, we’d like you to meet MasterClass students and semifinalists Jeff Gunhus and Michael Hilliard!

Jeff Gunhus
Davidsonville, Maryland

Jeff GunhusWhat’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
As a long-time fan of his work, James had already been a major influence on my style, so his Masterclass was right up my alley. I have pages of notes from the class, but the one thing that impacts me daily are the words on top of many of my outline pages, “Be there.” A reminder to anchor my reader in the time and place, especially for the pivotal scenes where I want to really pack a punch. I used this reminder in a recent scene where my character, a tough FBI agent, has a scene with her father with early Alzheimer’s. I slowed my pace for the scene, really tried to convey what the room felt like, the smells, the way her father’s hand felt to the touch. “Be there,” is a simple rule, but makes a great impact.

If you could spend 5 minutes with James, what questions would you ask him?
The MasterClass developed so much of the craft, so I’d use the five minutes to pick his brain as an entrepreneur. I’d also ask him how to successfully navigate a writing career across genres.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
My wife, hands down. I have five kids and a full-time gig, so the most essential block of writing time I have is from 5-8 AM (and from 10-1 AM when I’m really cranking on something good.) Sometimes it’s hard to roll out of bed that early, but my wife is good about giving me that extra shove (or kick!) when I need it. She reads my first drafts, endures me talking to her about my characters as if they’re real people and tolerates me interrogating anyone we meet at a party who has a job that could be useful in a book. It’s helpful in life to have a cheerleader. It’s almost unfair to have one as good as my wife, Nicole.

Michael Hilliard
Millersville, Maryland

What driveprofile pictures you to write?
My favorite quote is “The best vehicle to get you somewhere fast isn’t a plane, train, or a car. It’s a book.” Writing is something deep inside me. My mind is always working, and I get ideas that won’t leave me alone until I write them down.

How long have you been writing?
My entire life! When I was five years old my mother caught me stapling folded construction paper to write a book about birds. I still have it, as well as the hundreds of short stories that followed.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
I learned the importance of creating an outline and to not just strive to write a novel but a best-seller. Also, I like how James maintains a working notebook of ideas. I’ve started one and already see the benefit of being able to draw from it in the future.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in your story?
It all starts with the character and making sure they are interesting, believable, and likable. I thoroughly enjoy researching and sprinkling in bits of interesting and sometimes quirky information.

Meet Semifinalists EJ Flynn & Veronica Forand

Thank you to everyone who participated in the James Patterson Co-Author Competition and congratulations to the semifinalists! Today, we’d like you to meet MasterClass students and semifinalists EJ Flynn and Veronica Forand!

EJ Flynn
Mamaroneck, NY

EJ FlynnHow long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since I was fifteen, so nearly thirty years. I started writing because I wanted to imagine my life as an adult, so I wrote about myself and my best friends in our late twenties.

Which writers do you aspire to be like?
My favorite authors (other than Mr. Patterson) are Stephen King, John Saul, Dean Koontz, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Michael Connelly and Danielle Steel. If I could be half as talented and find half as much success as these authors, I would be blessed.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
The most important thing I’ve learned is to write everyday. Find a way, no matter what, to write for at least an hour every single day.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
My family has been the most supportive of my writing. My sister Lisa gifted me the James Patterson MasterClass because she truly believes in my writing and encouraged me to enter the contest. My cousin Patti is my fellow writer. She and I send each other our work for critique and motivation. My husband and my eight year old daughter support me the most everyday.

Veronica Forand
Newtown Square, PA

What drivVeronica Forandes you to write?
I love thinking up ideas for books I’d love to read. If I don’t enjoy reading my own book, no one else will either. Once an idea takes hold in my imagination, I sit down and plot out the story. Plotting a thriller is my favorite intellectual activity; a puzzle that has an infinite number of solutions, but only a few possibilities that will engage a reader all the way through. After I write the dreaded first draft, I dive into the language. I rewrite often so the words flow, allowing a reader to become absorbed in the story and not be bogged down by vocabulary or grammar.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
His focus on hard work and creating habits that will enhance his career really made sense to me. He spoke about writing at five am while working in advertising full-time. No excuses. By making writing a priority every day, my productivity has increased, but even more important, my enjoyment of writing has increased. This is not a chore, nor is it a hobby that I fit into a busy  schedule. This is my passion, and I take all the time I need to create stories others will want to read.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in your story?
My story follows two completely different women investigating a murder. One was raised on  Southern manners and charm, while the other is a gritty New Yorker who has no problem breaking the law to solve a crime. They need to work together despite their mutual hatred for each other. I hope the conflict between them and the outside forces working against them will  create a story that is hard to put down.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
My biggest support is the romance writing community. As a brand new writer, my local writing group, the Valley Forge Romance Writers, offered advice, looked over my early manuscripts,  and offered a shoulder to cry on. These remarkable women are always available to celebrate  successes and to commiserate over failure. I love them all.

Meet Semifinalists Kecia Bal & Lynette Eason

Thank you to everyone who participated in the James Patterson Co-Author Competition and congratulations to the semifinalists! For the rest of the week, we will be featuring two of the ten semifinalists each day, so that you can get to know them and learn about their backgrounds as writers. Today, we’d like you to meet MasterClass students Kecia Bal and Lynette Eason!

Kecia Bal
Somerset, Pennsylvania

KeciaWhat drives you to write?
A desire to make people care, make them feel something. And stubbornness. I’m going to show up and write, even when it’s not flowing because I know the reward: that rush that comes when something aligns – in a way that feels like magic – and it is working and I’m there, ready. There’s nothing like that.

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing stories since I was able to draw pictures. Professionally, I sold my first story (a piece for a travel website) at age 17 for $50. I was a newsroom intern by 19 and a full-time journalist by 21.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in your story?
I’ll keep a heart-racing pace with high stakes, swift twists, compelling questions, and, eventually, satisfying answers. I want readers to feel bound to the characters, and I want to surprise them – or scare them or charm them – on every page and keep them guessing until the last page.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
I am blessed with loving, supportive family – but you never really know whether you’re on to something until someone who doesn’t have to love what you make says you’re on to something. I have honest teachers and friends who helped me most by being editors – telling me what’s not working and where to cut to let what is working shine. My sons remind me daily that playfulness and curiosity are what shine brightest.

Lynette Eason
Simpsonville, South Carolina

LynetteWhat drives you to write?
Writing started out being a way to ease the loneliness that was the result of a hard-working and traveling husband. Since then, it’s become my passion. It’s my job, and I love it.

If you could spend 5 minutes with James, what questions would you ask him?
What’s the one book that’s been written that you wish you’d thought of?

Which writers do you aspire to be like?
I admire and have learned from John Grisham, Debbie Macomber, Lee Child, James Patterson, Terri Blackstock, Dee Henderson and others. I don’t really aspire to be like them. I want to be myself. 🙂

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
My family has been super supportive. I’m so thankful for their understanding when I need to write–and the fact that they like take out, know how to do laundry, and don’t hate me when I forget they’re in the room.

James Patterson’s Co-Author Semifinalists

“There are a lot of people who have the talent, but haven’t been shown the door to walk through.”—James Patterson

James Patterson has been so impressed by students in his MasterClass that 8 weeks ago he announced that he would pick one student to become his newest co-author.

We received thousands of submissions for the James Patterson Co-Author Competition. We are blown away not only at the quality of the submissions, but even more importantly the encouragement, advice, and collaboration we saw in the class community.

Today, we’re excited to announce the 10 semifinalists who have been selected based on their submissions. These semifinalists will receive a $1,000 cash prize and 3 will move on to the final round where they will receive $2,500 and submit an outline for a chance to become James’ co-author.

So, without further ado, here are the ten semifinalists for the James Patterson Co-Author Competition!

  • Kecia Bal
  • Lynette Eason
  • EJ Flynn
  • Veronica Forand
  • Jeff Gunhus
  • Michael Hilliard
  • Ellery Kane
  • Theresa Schultz
  • Sarah Smothers
  • Jacob Turner

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the competition and to our semifinalists! It was an incredibly difficult decision, and we’ve been amazed by the number of great submissions. Be sure to come back to learn more about the semifinalists. Tune in on April 12th when we announce the top three finalists and on May 24th when we announce James’ newest co-author!

Student Highlight: Paula Bast

Bast Vagabond ALv

Photo Credit: Barbara Schucko

A collector of experiences, feeling and love. That’s how Paula Bast, a student in Usher’s MasterClass (and soon Christina Aguilera’s class) describes herself. Paula recently shared the music video for her song, “Angel of Love,” with the class and we gotta say, it fits her description pretty well.

Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, but constantly on the go, Paula is an artist who is sharing her heart with the class and we love that. We wanted to know more about Paula and her experience in Usher’s MasterClass so we decided to make her our first Student Highlight!

Check out Paula’s music video and what she’s learned from Usher’s class below.

What type of performer are you and how did you get your start?

I am very new to performing. I love to entertain. Above all, I love to create and share those creations. The only experience I’ve had performing live thus far has been doing improvised painting. I got started when a friend invited me to tour with her band painting on-stage. Since then, I’ve started making my own music as well and I’m trying to strengthen skills that will enable me to share more art and music with the world.

Who are some of your greatest performance inspirations?

Marina Abramović, FKA Twigs, and Shakira. I love the artistry, authenticity and creativity that is projected through each of their performances. They’re edgy, bold, and raw.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from Usher so far?
Get out there. It’s okay to be vulnerable, that is the most important part about being fearless.

What is the next step in your performance journey?
I’m currently in the pre-production stage of my first album. My next step is to build up confidence so I can perform all the new creations myself, live. I signed up for Christina’s vocal MasterClass to gain confidence with my voice and strengthen my vocal technique. I want to keep performing and collaborating with artists from all disciplines. I think some of the most creative projects come from a collection of creative minds.

Want to learn more about Paula? You can connect with her in Usher’s MasterClass and check her out on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. You can also sign up to be one of Paula’s supporters on Patreon and keep the music coming!

Are you interested in being featured as a future student highlight? Share your work with the class in your class’s Student Group and you could be featured next!